Holiday with a Hero takes children in need shopping for gifts
Santa may not have been able to hear it, but more than 150 children were chanting his name as he traded in his usual sleigh-and-reindeer ride to arrive by helicopter on Thursday for Carson City’s eighth annual “Holiday with a Hero” shopping spree.The event, which continues Friday, pairs students from the Carson City School District’s Children in Transition program with first responders, law enforcement, members of the military and other community members. The district program serves children living in motels, cars, campgrounds or doubling up with other families. The students are each given $100 gift cards to spend on presents for themselves, their families and friends at Walmart.Danielle, a 7-year-old with a warm smile, said she wanted “heel boots,” although fireman Robert Stanford was not so keen on the idea. Aside from the boots, she wanted clothes, socks, slippers, pajamas and gloves. For her sister, it was a little doll and for her brother, a game.Monica, 9, made sure she bought things she and her sister could share, such as a toy, a brush and a curling iron for her sister. For her baby niece, it was a pair of socks.Nevada Division of Forestry Fire Captain Bill Moline was partnered with Michael, 9, who produced a quick estimate of how much money he had left to spend while Moline was still trying to calculate the figure. And after not finding a skateboard his size, Michael knew exactly what else to get. “He got socks, shoes and underwear,” for himself and his family, Moline said, adding that he covered some extra spending after the boy went over his $100 limit.“He went over by $20, so I chipped in. That’s all he wanted.” Moline said. “He’s happy and that’s the best thing in the world.”Second-grader Sierra wasn’t so sure about Santa’s grand entrance on a Calstar ambulance helicopter.“He doesn’t really have a helicopter,” Sierra said.The helicopter didn’t bother Monica, but she still wanted to know whether the genuine Santa was on hand for the Walmart event.“I want to ask him if he’s real or not,” she said. “I went to one store and he had blue eyes and I went to another store and he had brown eyes and at another store, he had blues eyes again!”Sheriff’s Sgt. Daniel Gonzales, president of the Holiday with a Hero board, said he was amazed at how smoothly the operation went. He noted that in years past there would be about 60 uniformed personnel shopping with the children, along with other adult partners, and this year those in uniform totaled about 90. That ensured that most of the children were able to shop one-on-one with their partner.“It gets the dialogue going with the kids,” he said.Besides the shopping partners, other volunteers pitched in to set up the event and help with gift-wrapping.Tracy Ashton, a Carson City courthouse staffer, was a gift-wrapper again this year.“It’s one of my favorite days, to see what they bought for their families and themselves,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve even wrapped a toy yet.”“Everybody filled in what needed to be filled in,” Gonzales said, adding that donated time can be just as valuable — if not more so — than a cash donation. Gonzales also thanked the community for donations of money and other resources. He also credited Walmart, saying, “Walmart covered all we couldn’t.” Walmart shift manager Paul Redmond instructed cashiers to not charge for any groceries bought by the students because the company would pick up the tab. “If we have kids in need, it’s something we should do as a company,” he said.Funds for next year’s Holiday with a Hero event are already being accepted. Checks need to be made payable to “Holiday with a Hero” and donations can be mailed to PO Box 2790, Carson City, 89702, or taken to the Carson City Sheriff’s Office at 911 E. Musser St. Donations can be made at Bank of the West at 2976 N. Carson Street under Account No. 025761072. The tax identification number is 80-0763632.The Holiday with a Hero program also is seeking donations of used Christmas gift bags that can be recycled for next year.“Gift bags are the most expensive and one of the hardest things for us to find,” said Meliah Gonzales, a court bailiff and Sgt. Gonzales’ spouse, who helps administer the program.